When a Family Pet and Friend Dies

My little family began the day that my husband and I got married in January 1996.  By June of that year we had purchased our first home.  And then on August 29th, our family grew when Mike brought home our first puppy in celebration of my birthday that year.

The ultimate mutt of a pound dog, she was the runt of her litter and all of her litter mates had chewed on her tail to the point that it had very little to no fur left on it.  Mike had great compassion on her and she became our Daisy.

Our family grew again on September 24th of that year when I brought home a tiny little dachshund puppy.  A red smooth miniature dachshund to be exact with the softest coat of fur, biggest puppy eyes and cutest floppy ears this side of the Rio Grande.  Her name was somewhat of a compromise as Mike really wanted to call her something along the lines of “Frankfurter” or “Oscar Mayer.”  As neither of those names were acceptable to me, we finally settled on Frankie.

Frankie, Daisy and I the night I brought Frankie home.

Fast forward 12 years, another puppy (Gus, a Welsh Corgi) and two kids later we had a full house.  Our two children have never known life without Daisy, Frankie and Gus.  They had not known what life would be like without any of these precious little creatures until May 6, 2008.

On that day, at just shy of 12 years old, Daisy finally succumbed to a several month ordeal which we are fairly certain was a cancer in her gastrointestinal tract which had metastasized and spread to her lungs.  Normally a 55-60 pound dog, she had lost so much weight that it was painful for us to see her like that.  There came a day when we just knew her fight was over.  As her owners we had to make a decision that day that we never wanted to make.  We had to end her fight for her.  Peacefully, quietly; she suffered no more.

Daisy

Nathan was young enough at the time, not quite 3 yet, that he just took it in stride that Daisy had died.  But Sarah was 7 and really took it hard.  I simply told her when she got home from school that day that Daisy had died at the vet’s office.  We sat on the couch in the living room and cried on each other’s shoulders for quite a while.  To this day she still keeps a picture of Daisy in her locker at school and we all talk about her often.

Then on Saturday September 10th, just a few short days ago, at the age of 15, our little dachshund, Frankie, died.  She had battled and taken medication for congestive heart failure since January.  We knew she wasn’t well on Saturday morning but then she just got progressively worse throughout the day until she had what we believe to have been a massive heart attack Saturday evening.  We all gathered around her as she lay in my husband’s lap and petted and loved on her.  Then, after I had left with the kids because of previous plans, she breathed her last there in his lap.  Yet again, peacefully, quietly; she suffered no more.

Frankie

I know that talking about a pet’s death doesn’t seem like an overly spiritual thing to talk about, but I believe there are lessons to learn if we allow ourselves to be open to them.

We have never been ones to shelter our children from death.  Dying is a part of living on this fallen planet.  While Sarah’s first experience with death was my grandmother (on my mom’s side), she was young and had not had the opportunity to be very close to my Nana.  Daisy’s death in 2008 was her first real experience with death hitting very close to home.  And this, with Frankie on Saturday was Nathan’s first real experience with death when he could process it and fully feel the emotion of it.

I have to tell you, I have never seen a 6 year old boy as sad in my life as Nathan was on Saturday.  We’d had a baseball game on the television and as we sat there and petted her he said, “I don’t want to watch TV right now.”  I asked him if he wanted me to turn it off and he said that he did.  It was like he felt the reverence of a life slipping away and knew that having a baseball game on in the midst of it was just not right.  He sat in my lap for a while and cried and then so did Sarah.

As hard as it is to lose a pet, I am so thankful that my kids have begun to learn how to grieve and to process the idea of death in the sheltered atmosphere of our little home in this way.  Because, you see, we have a loved one who is ill.  A loved one who is very close to us.  We have no idea how much longer he will be with us here on earth, but we do know that our time with him is so much shorter than we would have ever anticipated.  However, I know that when he does pass away that it won’t be my kids’ first encounter with death.  And as hard as it will be on our whole family, it will be just a little easier to know that my own children, even though they don’t know the full extent of the illness to this point, will have just a little bit more understanding of what is going on and will have a past experience to draw from.

It’s true that having pets while your children are young is such a training ground.  It teaches them how to care for another living being who is totally dependent on them.  It teaches them responsibility.  Having pets can help teach them kindness and gentleness.  But, unfortunately, and as much as it hurts, having that little furry creature in your home that wiggles its way into the fabric of your family and heart can also teach them about death.

Lord, I hope it’s true that all dogs go to heaven.  Please take care of my Daisy and my Frankie until I get there.  I know that Daisy can wake you up barking at night and Frankie seems like she’s always underfoot while you’re cooking dinner, but they really are good dogs.  And by the way, Lord, they both like their bellies to be rubbed.  Often.

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Plans of His Heart

Father, I come into Your Presence this morning, and I confess that I am a planner.

I like to plan.

To be prepared.

To anticipate the future!

And yet, it hearkens back to the garden in Eden. I am Eve and I want to know.

Knowing is my idol.

I seek it, as treasure.

I make my shelter in knowledge.

So I make plans and believe somehow that I have lassoed knowledge.

Many are the plans in my heart. (Proverbs 19:21)

I plan without counsel. (Proverbs 15:22)

I act according to the stubbornness of my evil heart. (Jeremiah 18:12)

I am the foolish man, building on sand, LORD. My foundations crumble without Your Guidance.

So I bring it all into close proximity, reining in from future to today, this moment.

And I release control, that weapon wielded in idolatry.

I invite You, LORD, to the center.

Be the center of my life, Jesus.

Make the desires of my heart fully line up with Your design, desire and intent.

Fill me, once again, with purpose. Surround me with wise counsel.

Let me not follow fast after the knowing and find security in unsecured plans.

Secure me in You.

For You HOLD. You do not fail. You order. You lead.

Under Your authority, LORD Jesus, the plans I make are good plans, prosperous plans.

They may not look like wisdom to this world, no.  They are foolishness to men.

But in Your eyes, in your understanding, they are purposed tools, carrying out salvation and revealing Your Glory.

I surrender my plans today, LORD.  I embrace Yours.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.

 He will not let your foot be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.” Psalm 121:1-3 ESV

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Impact

Wrapping my mind around the past 2 1/2 months is a difficult thing to do.  The depths of pain and intercession, which had before been untapped have become springs of maturity and understanding for me.  On January 11th, my friend Joanne fell from her treadmill due to a massive stroke–her description of the event reminds me of fire and ice, but I will leave it for her to tell someday. I sank into a desperate place of prayer.

Without thought, I began to act, to pray, to be bold and to hold fast to some rope that seemed to be attached to God in a way I had yet to experience.  I felt distinctly that I was a player in a battle, a battle that I will never comprehend this side of Heaven.  I battled in prayer day and night–petitioning God for the life of my friend.  Deep down, I knew my place…to pray and to tell. I did both.

A deep sleeper, I was awakened through the watches of the night for weeks on end.  I woke and prayed–tarried in prayer until released.  It was as if I was connected to a place of action being carried out on Joanne’s behalf.  The exhaustion I felt is nothing–nothing–compared to Joanne’s close family and friends. I knew that I was at the bottom of the symbolic mountain, praying, as they battled at the precipice.  I also knew that my connecting point at the base of that mountain was to tell others within my sphere the story and to rally them in prayer for Joanne–and ultimately, I believe prayer for themselves.  That is not to say there were not others at the base of the mountain with me.  Oh, God set up connecting points with others, too.  He has the best system!

Two and a half months later and with much of the story in-between left unspoken, I sit today with pen and journal in hand to let this portion of the story be told for this time.  It is the right time.  There is much of the battle for Joanne’s fullness of life still to be fought and forged.  I ask you to pray for her and her family.  Pray that she will take back every inch of ground she lost–to regain everything.  Pray also for her family and friends, who daily minister to her and urge her on. Finally, pray for her story to be a tidal wave around the globe. Many, maybe including you, need to know that God is at work on behalf of all people, that He hears us, that He answers and that He invites our participation in the unfolding story all around us.

We can choose to believe Him on the darkest of days. We can trust that He can hold our weighty worries.  We can embrace Him, knowing that He is for us and loves us unconditionally. We can relate with Him, for He knows how to speak our language.  And if we get really still and listen, we can hear His voice speaking love and truth over our day-in, day-out lives.  He speaks over us saying, “You matter. You are significant.”  Whether at the top of the mountain, the base or somewhere in the desert perimeter, we have a place of great significance in the story God is writing–planned before the foundation of time.  We have a part to play and a choice to carry it out or not.

Joanne and I have shared many texts over the past weeks (so much so that I had to increase my plan!  And that with JOY!!!).  In every one I receive from her, I thank God for her ability to remember, to relate, to connect and to feel.  She is dreaming wide awake!  Now she is even dreaming in her sleep, which is a miracle. Most of all, Joanne is humble, a fighter, discerning, poetic, fun and able to do everything that is placed before her.  She is able to do, because she holds tightly to the Hand of her God.  She said herself in one of the texts, “When I am afraid, I will trust in Jesus.”  And later, “On the way in a couple of hours, anxious, scared, but choosing to trust Jesus, who loves me.”  Oh indeed He does, dear Joanne!

Friend?  He loves you, too.  He is worthy of your trust.  Just today, I read this from Streams in the Desert by Mrs. C.E. Cowman, “Jesus Christ is no security against storms, but He is perfect security in storms. He has never promised you an easy passage, only a safe landing.”

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The Cake Story

Truer words were never spoken than when Stasi Eldredge penned in her book Captivating the feeling with which we women most struggle—we feel like we’re “too much” and “not enough.”

We feel torn to bits among perfection, failure and just plain giving up.  We cannot decide if Martha Stewart is attainable, because every time we try to make the perfect meal and keep the perfect home with a perfect centerpiece on the table, it would seem, we fail. 

There’s nothing to see here—no pictures of perfection.  I’m just a woman, who wants to be more like Martha in the Bible, when she understood that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life.

Such was my struggle on that week, when not only my husband’s parents were coming to Colorado, but also his aunt and uncle. I was pregnant with our fourth child and felt inadequate to say the least.  You could say my reality show would be called, “Woman Falls Short–in Everything.”

They all decided one day to take an excursion up the mountain through a bumpy road that I knew I could not, should not and would not take.  I stayed at home alone and decided to impress my guests with a fabulous meal. Soon they would taste and see my mad cooking skillz.

First I started boiling the chicken for the main course of Chicken Pot Pie.  Then, as it cooked, I pulled out my friend Holly’s grandmother’s recipe for Five Flavor Cake.  I had prepared it quite a few times before, so I felt confident.

As the cake was slowly baking in the oven, I prepared the chicken pot pie, feeling like I was the time-management, cooking, queen-of-the-world.  All of a sudden, as I was stirring the filling, I began to smell something burning. 

“Hmm,” I thought, “the cake is almost done, but surely it couldn’t be burning, yet.”  The burning began to smell electrical, then as I glanced at the oven—it was aflame!

I quickly turned off the oven, and grabbed pot holders.  The flames had died down and the charred remains of cake sizzled (at this point I thought my oven had sizzled and died, too).  I pulled the cake out and saw that nearly 1/3 of the cake had cooked over onto the element below.  The cake was not ruined, but it also wasn’t very pretty.

When I turned it over on the cake plate, I realized how despicably ugly it was.  But I decided that it was still tasty enough to eat. At this point I angrily and with vigor threw the pan in the outside waste receptacle.

That evening around the table, I served chicken pot pie, which was a hit by the way, and cake.  I, myself, ate some humble pie—as my tube pan became fodder for the trash man and my oven smelled every time I used it for awhile, as a reminder.  But at least the oven worked, praise God! 

Looking back, I see several aspects of my attitude that could have prevented that whole incident.

First of all, the recipe came from my friend in Arkansas, when we lived there.  I had also prepared it in Texas a few times, when we lived there.  But Colorado, 7000 feet altitude and cakes can be tricky.  I have since learned that the recipe need not be altered for high altitude, just fill the pan less full. 

Also, I was full up with pride.  I wanted to impress everyone.  But that left nothing for me but a frustrating snare. I didn’t have to earn their love or acceptance.  I already was (and am) loved and accepted by them.

Looking back I should have driven to the store for some take out and watched “Pride and Prejudice” again. It would have been received just as well, and my spirit would have been less frazzled.

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Jehovah Nissi, The Lord My Banner

When I was thinking about the word “banner” two images came to mind. The first was that of my beloved Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band. The front row has a group of seniors who have 12th Man banners hanging from their horns. I remember standing in Kyle Field watching the band go through their routine at half time. I can also remember what it sounded like. I can hear those banners pop as they are put through the motions. Crisp, clean pops. They sounded like  “battle ready” snaps.

I also pictured my friend Nikita. She would dance before the Lord at our church and women’s events, and many times she would use banners. They would flow ever so gracefully in her hands. I have seen those same banners draped around women who were just broken before the Lord.

Whether the banner the Lord places over me is one of battle preparedness or one of comfort in my pain, it says the same thing….I am His.

I am His.

As a sign to the enemy from the onset of our warfare, I belong to God. As a bandage for the wounds I have incurred, I am God’s. Regardless of the color, the material, or even the size, the banner over you and me, we who are in Christ Jesus, says clearly that we belong to Him and He loves us.

Father God, I am so grateful that You are my Jehovah Nissi. You are my banner. You are the Who and the What I can stand confidently under, regardless of my circumstances. Lord, I am ever thankful that Your banner proclaims Your love for me and for others. Help me today, Jesus, to walk under that banner, finding strength in its covering and comfort under its shelter.

 

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Adonai, Lord and Master

The name Adonai, when applied to God the Father, implies the kind of relationship that could take place between a good master and a willing servant or slave. Psalm 16:2 (ESV) reads:

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord (Adonai); I have no good apart from you.”

Adonai, You are not just a good master, You are the Best Master. I am Your bondservant – I willingly serve You. Throughout Your Word You have given examples of how my relationship with You should be; one of the best of those examples involves the loving care and tender protection You give to me when I recognize and confess You as my Master. I no longer belong to myself ~ I belong to You. Help me to remember from moment to moment to Whom I belong. Give me the words, the love and the longing in my heart to help others who need to know You as their Master as well as their Savior. In Jesus’ name, amen.






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Heart Prompt #2

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14 NIV

The Bible tells us that God inhabits the praises of His people.  Take moments each day to vocalize your praise of the Lord.  Sing a song, pray, speak His word out loud, share with your loved ones all the reasons why you praise Him.  Praising the Lord with you!

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Direction

Lord, I enter the Foyer this evening, with my eyes focused on one thing–direction. The twists and turns of the day, Lord, have left my mind spinning. There is little I can “figure” with my mind–the hows and whats and whys. But You know. Lord, I am resting.

So tonight, Lord, as I enter the Foyer, I am going face down. Face down before You. Even my prayers, Lord, they need your assistance.  I pray for the Holy Spirit to intercede, where I cannot voice my prayers nor can I even voice what my prayers should be.  Lord, I am resting here, face down.

Gleaning the good from the day, Lord, I thank You once again for your mercies. They were new and applicable to my journey today. The time you kept a car from hitting us….the time you sent a friend to share…the time when you kept a situation from my plate…the time you are giving me now to lay these burdens at Your feet. You give peace like a river, Lord.  And my river, it is raging.  But I hold fast to Your hand. Lord, I am resting here, face down, trusting you in my river.

Others around me have shared burdens today.  They are huge burdens, which make mine seem so small.  And yet…and yet, you care about them all, each one, big and small.  You have a plan for each journey.  You have a blueprint.  You have ordered it.  It is not disarray.  It is precisely timed and tuned. Better than the finest inventor or repairer, You are Creator and Restorer. There is nothing beyond your scope to do–to accomplish. We need only say Lord, Your strength is perfect. You are the Way Maker.  Just let us know, “This is the way, walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21  We shall walk it with You. Lord, I am resting here, face down, trusting you in my river, listening for Your voice.

The road ahead, Lord, it is unknown darkness to me.  I cannot see my way nor my path.  But I know that Jesus, You are the Light (John 18:12). You know the way that I take (Job 23:10).  There is nothing too hard for You (Jeremiah 32:17). You make my feet like the feet of a deer (Habakkuk 3:19). The law of the Lord is perfect (Psalm 19:7). Your eye is on the sparrow (Luke 12:7). You love me (John 16:27).  I have hope!  Your compassions never fail.  They are new every morning.  Great is Your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:21-23). Though a mother may forget, You will not forget me (Isaiah 49:15). You have called me chosen (1 Peter 2:9).  Peace is what you leave with me.  Peace is what You give me. I am not afraid (John 14:27). You are enthralled with my beauty (Psalm 45:11).  I am the apple of Your eye, hiding in Your wings (Psalm 17:8). Lord, I am resting here, face down, trusting you in my river, listening for Your voice, and writing Your word on my heart.

The Foyer is filled with Your Presence, Lord.  I thank You that you are an ever-present help in time of trouble (Psalm 46:1).  As the world and my life calls me back, I will remember that what I have entrusted to you here is a seed of investment, that You, my Jesus, will tend and care for and grow into fruit. Thank You, Lord, that I am able to fully rest all of me on all of You. Thank You for thinking much of my offering here…for treasuring it…for treasuring me.

“With your help I can advance against a troop ; with my God I can scale a wall.” Psalm 18:29

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A Fried Oyster Life

I grew up in a somewhat ramshackle, old Victorian house in the suburbs of St. Louis.  I am sure if I revisited that house now the dining room would be of quite normal proportions, but in my mind it is forever captured through the lens of a child’s eye.  It was HUGE!  There was a big bay window with a large seat, opposite the window there was a sideboard table that held the good china, my mom’s sewing machine in a corner, the far end had a built-in book shelf that held glassware,  the other end opened into the living room (which was used only when we had company).  Overhead the light fixture was a large, crystal chandelier.  In the center and the heart of the room was a beautiful dark, wood, dining room table that seated eight and could be extended to seat twelve (and often did!).  

The large table served for many uses.  On occasion, my mom would let my sister and me stand on the table and take all the hanging crystals off the chandelier and wash them.  We loved this chore and delighted in holding the sparkly, freshly, washed crystals up to the sun to watch rainbows dance across the room.  It was also around this table that my mom, grandmother, and aunts would gather to make the traditional Indian Christmas goodies.  For Christmas and Easter, the table became a smorgasbord of every woman in the extended family’s special dish.  But aside from all these extra uses, our dining room table was where we gathered nightly as a family to eat together.  Though not a particularly exalted task, this daily gathering was its most sacred use.

Whether we gathered as our family alone or extended the table to include guests, the dining room table was a place of fellowship, of shared prayer, shared food, shared life.  In the conversations around this table that our parents values were often communicated, a place where problems were discussed, encouragement given, and  also arguments had and apologies given.  It is this deep sharing in each other’s lives that we are called.  Christian life is one meant to be lived in community.  As St. Basil the Great said, “If you live alone, whose feet will you wash?”   Jesus gathered His disciples around a table and told them this very thing.  He encouraged them to go forth and serve and promised that He would be always with them.  He called them to a new way of life and a new hope in Him.

I am sure most of you have an experience of trying a food you were sure you would hate, only to find it delicious. What usually convinces us to try it is the obvious delight of another in it.  For me it was oysters, fried oysters.  Every year when it came time to put up the Christmas tree, there was a procession up to the attic to bring all the ornaments down.  While my dad and brothers put the tree together, my sisters and I would sort out the ornaments and mom would be in the kitchen frying up a big batch of oysters.  My older brothers and oldest sister tried to convince us (my sister just older to me and myself) that they were delicious.  They didn’t look delicious.  They didn’t even look edible.  However, finally one year we were brave enough to try one… and I have been hooked ever since!  They were crisp and salty and had the wonderful flavor of the sea.  My older siblings still tease to this day that they regret our discovery, as it meant less for them. 

That is how our life as Christians should be.  Our obvious delight in the Lord should make other’s say, “I’ll have what she’s having!”  We must be well discipled so that we can, as Scripture tells us , “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15).  May our dining room tables become a place where the Christ is recognized in the breaking of the bread.  A place where we can be nourished in spirit and body.  Where we can learn to become the living example that proclaims to others “Taste and see how good the Lord is!”

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